writing prompt: to celebrate the Edward Gorey exhibit at the Boston Athenaeum (through June 2011), we each picked one entry from Gorey's Gashleycrumb Tinies. I picked The Effigy: the Effigy, got up with clothing Abstracted from the victim's room, is raised aloft to cheers of loathing Before it meets a flaming doom.
He looked down on the crowd. Their snarling, gnashing faces were twisted with hate. He stared down at them, impassive, wondering what it was that drove them to such malice.
"Burn it!" someone screamed.
The bonfire flickered and danced, making the ring of hard, ugly faces wink in and out.
"Burn it! Burn it!" The lone voice had been joined by others now, and it had turned into a droning, undulating, chorus.
There was a hiss and a flare, and the firelight suddenly glowed brighter, taller, closer.
The crowd was chanting faster now, the words running together in buzzing, vibrating hum.
He could see the light clearly now. Not the background glow of the bonfire, but a single flame, clear and bright. Was it coming closer? Maybe it only seemed that way because the crowd was falling back.
The flame wavered and then dipped out of sight. There was a hush now, and in the silence he heard the crackle of flames. He could smell something burning.
And then the world erupted. There was orange and pain, and he could hear the crowd cheering.